Roger Federer has dismissed his chances of claiming the outright record for grand slam singles titles and insisted he would be happy to stick at 20.
The 36-year-old moved four clear of Rafael Nadal in the overall men’s standings with a 6-2 6-7 (5/7) 6-3 3-6 6-1 victory over Marin Cilic in the Australian Open final on Sunday.
That took him to fourth on the all-time list behind Margaret Court, Serena Williams and Steffi Graf, who have 24, 23 and 22 respectively.
Federer has won three of the last five tournaments but said of his chances of reaching 24: “I don’t think so. I didn’t think 20 was ever possible. I think it’s too far. I never thought about it to be honest but those numbers are surreal and they’re amazing. I’m very happy if it stays at 20.”
Only a few hours after finishing his media duties at Melbourne Park, Federer was back carrying the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup at a photoshoot at Government House.
A husky-voiced Federer said of his team’s celebrations: “I think we were all a little bit tired but it was nice spending time together. The celebration continues once I get back to Switzerland.
“I’m just very excited that I have nothing going on in the next couple of weeks. It’s all quiet so I can just take time to celebrate. Number 20 is super special so we’ll try to make the most of it. It’s one of the great moments in my career.”
Federer was unexpectedly emotional after his five-set victory and could not hold back the tears during his victory speech. Bookmakers made him the clear favourite ahead of the tournament but the man himself had a feeling this one was not going to go his way.
He said: “I’m still a little bit confused that it’s all over and that I was able to do it. It’s just a lot trying to take it in. Last year it was more straightforward, just disbelief, this year it seems more surreal. I can’t believe I was able to defend my title after all these years.
“I’m not sure how much I really felt like I could defend it. I just felt, like last year, something was going to come in its way, one guy was going to catch fire and I was not going to be able to stop him. Maybe next year when I do come back I might actually believe I can win it. But then I probably won’t win it.”
Federer will now take time to decide on his schedule, with the most pressing issue being whether he will play in Dubai at the end of February.
His sixth title in Melbourne moved him to within 155 points of Rafael Nadal at the top of the rankings. With Federer defending titles in Indian Wells and Miami in March, it could be his best chance for a good while.
Should Federer overtake Nadal, he would be the oldest man ever to top the rankings, surpassing current record holder Andre Agassi by more than three years.
Then there is the question of how much Federer will play on clay and whether he will miss the French Open for the third year in a row.
He said: “We were in talks with them (Dubai) but then when the tournament started I said, ‘If it’s OK, I’d like to decide after the tournament’. I also have to decide on the clay-court season, all these things are interlinked. It’s possible I’ll play something. The next week or so I’ll make a decision.”